Things that didn’t suck 6-24 to 6-30

1. The Alan Partridge movie finally almost existing
This has been bubbling its way through the pipeline for most of the last decade or so, and I’m super-stoked to know that it’s actually reaching some degree of “actually happening.” Alan Partridge is one of the funniest characters ever created for comedy, and all I want is for there to be about ten times more AP material than there already is.

2. An open letter from a “millenial”
I actually don’t have a particular dog in this fight, necessarily. I think I’m a couple years too old to actually be called a millenial as such, and even if I’m not, I’ll still disqualify myself. And really, the point isn’t inter-generational squabbling: I actually loathe the weird media-obsession1 with that actually meaning anything beyond the obvious “they were all about the same age when stuff happened historically”. Anyway, what makes me happy about this is someone from easily – easily – the most-maligned generation finally addressing the smug, condescending member of the older generation. I like the fight, I like the squabble, and most of all I like that this kid is totally owning that shit. I don’t necessarily think I agree with his points, but I don’t have to.

3. The finest literary achievement in American history
Robert Sylvester Kelly is one of America’s foremost artistic thinker. And, having reinvented R&B and long-form short-films2, he turns his mind to matters of the pen, which is mightier than the sword, but almost certainly not mightier than his “sword,” and definitely not mighter than bullets, as he met both Tupac and Biggie and failed to keep either one alive. Don’t think of that as R. Kelly’s failure. Think of it as his success. Think of all of the lives he would go on to touch, merely by believing he could fly which, dudes, he totally played for Biggie who totally loved him just like Tupac did.

4. Extremely long years
2012, a leap year with a leap second, is officially one of the longest years any of us will ever live through3. Now, I spent my leap day fixing the problems with the timestream, so I think I’ve earned the right to a little rest and relaxation on my leap second, so I’m going to use it to google old Bloom County strips. Which I then won’t have time to read, but it’ll be nice to think about. Thanks, extra second!

5. Birds with arms
Guys. They’re birds. Birds that have arms. These birds have human arms on them. And they’re birds. And they have arms.



1 and I realize it’s only some of the media, but I hate it so much that I’m letting my blind rage obscure the facts of the matter.
2 Trapped in the Closet: the only film so good that its genre is a god-damned paradox.
3 except those filthy fucking millenials, who are obviously hiding all the good cures until we’re all dead.

februarymakeup’s Top 50 Songs from the First Half of 2012 in Alphabetical Order

2011, as I remarked at the end of 20111, was a pretty good year for music. 2012? A bit less so. Oh, it’s still a good time to be a fan of adventurous hip-hop, and perhaps even moreso. But where last year saw a wealth of releases by established acts polishing off and improving upon what they do, this year has been….well, largely disappointing. It’s not that there haven’t been things that have been good, it’s that there’s been a large number of things that were….ok. That had their moments. Not much has come around to blow me away. Although there’s been an uptick of that in the last couple of weeks, certainly, which is a good sign.

What follows are fifty of the songs that did manage to blow me away, or at least come close (in alphabetical order). As always, this list is my opinion, which makes it completely infallible. Any argument you may have with it is an argument you actually have with yourself, and I’m sorry about your self-loathing. Plus, this time you can download them!

Part 1
Part 2
and Part 3

Ab-Soul f. Kendrick Lamar “Illuminate” – Dr. Dre-approved collective Black Hippy have put together a remarkably consistent catalog in their first two to three years of existence, but Ab-Soul’s Control System might be their finest moment yet. Sounding more-or-less exactly like you’d expect a Dr. Dre endorse collective called Black Hippy to sound, “Illuminate” sees the collective’s two biggest talents together, over an early-nineties-backpack-rap style beat, with Ab-Soul’s rock-solid flow and some really unsettling barking/gasping/grunting noises.

Action Bronson “5 Minute Beats, One Take Raps” – To the other side of the country (Queens, specifically), a redheaded white man named after “Action” Jackson and Charles Bronson manages to seem really worried about his waistline. In the best possible way, I mean.

Fiona Apple “Hot Knife” – Only a few days old at the time of this writing, Fiona Apple has managed the rare-but-important trick of actually being surprising. People like to write more about Fiona Apple: The Spectacle, her weirdness, her “craziness,” etc. While her other albums were certainly fine, and rarely what was expected, they weren’t nearly as good. For the first time since her first album2, people have actually been talking about what the record sounds like. Which is nice.

The Big Sleep “Valentine” – It’s hardly news to say that a band is underheralded – it happens in pretty much every conversation everyone has ever had about bands, really. The Big Sleep, however, have been so consistently next-level that I feel like “underheralded” isn’t even an appropriate word. “Valentine” is emblematic of their best work – an off-kilter, untraditional build-up to a sneakily-anthemic chorus, some top-shelf drumming, and some weirdo noises and guitar sounds. The Big Sleep should be in everyone’s rotation. Act like you heard.

Danny Brown “Grown Up” – 2011 was an extremely auspicious year for Danny Brown, and everyone has already talked about all that. His lone solo contribution to 2012 so far3 is a herky-jerky trip through Danny Brown’s…well…herky-jerky sense of nostalgia. One of Danny Brown’s talents is his ability to find nonstandard beats to match his adenoidal bleat to, and it really serves the music impressively. Which isn’t a talent everyone can say they have.

Cadence Weapon “Jukebox” – it’s rare that you get a good scream these days, so kudos to that. I also support the continuing invasion of Canadian rappers almost as much as I support the continued invasion of bearded rappers. If a bearded canadian turns up on datpiff soon, it’s basically going to create a hip-hop black hole.

Cloud Nothings “Wasted Days” – The easiest point of comparison for Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory, sonically and generically4 is The Wipers, albeit with better mixing. But it’s the same jittery attack, and hoarse-shouty vocals, and also teeny-tiny frontperson. “Wasted Days,” then, is Cloud Nothings’ “Youth of America” – long without really having any of the hallmarks of really long songs (it’s all just the song, I mean. There’s a breakdown or whatever, but it’s not some long noodly thing.), obeying the band’s characteristic economy of form and arrangement, it’s even got some really impressive shouting (and is good for shouting along with), all of which is sort of what you look for in a rock song, right?

The Cribs “Come On, Be a No-One” – which I suppose sort of suffers for being alphabetically right next to that Cloud Nothings song, actually. But where Cloud Nothings are an inspired kid out of Cleveland, the Cribs are former also-rans from the mid-00’s crop of post-punk-inspired bands about which much ink was spilled, and most of whom neither survived nor aged well. The Cribs, who were never really standouts of a movement that wasn’t really ever a movement in the first place, managed to take their period of not really being the focus of anyone’s attention to figure out how to maximize their impact, and “Come On, Be a No-One” is more viscerally satisfying than anything else I’ve heard by them.

Curren$y “Fly Out, Pt. Deux” – The Stoned Immaculate was Curren$y’s bigger, “official” bid in 2012, but for my money, Muscle Car Chronicles, perhaps because it was so small and unassuming, was actually the better record, especially the “Fly Out” suite. Like Star Wars movies or seasons of Babylon 5, it’s the middle part that’s the best.

Death Grips “Hacker” – Death Grips clawed their way out of nowhere last year, with a mixtape on which usually-drummer Zach Hill mined the palpable (but easy) energy of old punk records (and “Interstellar Overdrive”!) while someone who sounded really, really upset occasionally shouted intelligible words over the top. This year’s The Money Store was largely the same (with samples that were less-well-known), and works as a self-contained burst of really aggressive hip-hop, until its last song, “Hacker,” which sounds like the music you’d play at Abby Hoffman’s dance parties. I mean, theoretically. If Abby Hoffman was alive and had dance parties at which you played angry rap music. The table’s flipped, now we’ve got all the coconuts, bitch.

Dirty Three “You Greet Her Ghost” – A rare success story in 2012, Dirty Three managed to scrape the rust off their limbs5 and put together the sort of record that was much more than we could have hoped, especially considering their last record, Cinder, was not….well, it wasn’t very good, is what I’m trying to say here. Toward the Low Sun was very good, taking the more-intuitive approach the band had developed and reintroducing themselves with some stripped-back, unpolished ensemble playing. “You Greet Her Ghost” had lots of competition on the record, and it just occurred to me that I suppose I don’t have to limit myself to one song per band per year, since I’m the one that makes the rules and stuff, but you know what? I already have, so you’re all just going to have to go thirsty out there in the desert with your one goddamned Dirty Three song. Maybe if you were better people, you’d have already bought the record. God, this is why you’ll never have anything cool.

Disappears “Fear of Darkness” – You know, you’d think it would take more than just sharing a drummer to make a band sound an awful lot like early-nineties Sonic Youth, but I guess it wouldn’t! Actually that’s not fair. This sounds like early-nineties Sonic Youth fronted by Scott McCloud of Girls Against Boys. Or, alternately, like Girls Against Boys. Anyway, it’s much better than the game of spot-the-influence it inspires, and having a great drummer actually does this record a world of good compared to their other ones, especially on the good songs.

Dr. Dog “That Old Black Hole” – I’m relatively happy to see the rise of rock bands that deal almost exclusively in great singles, but kind of dismayed that that is apparently not enough, and that we’re still having to force things into albums. I mean, practically I get that you want people to have heard your other songs before they come to your shows, but there should be less emphasis on the album. Rock bands should consider a career more like a sixties soul singer, or a prewar jazz musicians: just put out four singles a year or whatever, and make them better. Anyway. That’s neither here nor there. Dr. Dog are from Philadelphia, “That Old Black Hole” is a great song.

El-P (featuring Mr. Mothafuckin’ eXquire & Danny Brown) “Oh Hail No” – It was a good year for EL-P, who put out a great record of his own and a great record of Killer Mike’s. He and MME have an impressive interplay (they should do more stuff together, seriously), and Danny Brown’s “stop the show” verse manages to sound appended but not tacked-on, which is a really weird structural decision in the first place.

Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames “Old LA” – Another legitimate surprise, this seemed like a weird poor-man’s-Mermaid Avenue right up until its release, when it turned out to have almost nothing in common with Jay Farrar’s former-bandmate’s run-up to the same idea. A set of songwriters surprisingly6 well-suited to the material at hand, “Old LA” (sung by Parker) is both the best example of what they do that works so well, and the best song on the set. I would be satisfied if all of these people just broke up their existing bands and did this for the rest of their careers.

JK Flesh “Idle Hands” – It was hard to excited about a record that was billed as “Justin K. Broadrick’s Dance Album”, and downright baffling that he was releasing it under his old Godflesh name. Turns out, upon hearing it, that that’s more-or-less exactly what it is: a “dance” record by the guy from Godflesh. I can’t imagine what sort of dancing one would find oneself wanting to perform for this song, but if any of you feel up to it, I’d appreciate video. Thanks in advance.
Future “Same Damn Time” – Future actually could have made the list twice, as it came down to the wire between “Same Damn Time” and “Birds Take a Bath7.” In the end, “Same Damn Time” won because: 1) it’s got swearing in the title and 2) multitasking is a very important skill. Also “Birds Take a Bath” loses because I’m pretty sure it’s not actually about actual birds taking an actual bath, and I don’t like to listen to the lyrics close enough to solve the metaphor, which is probably just depressingly raunchy anyway.

Future of the Left “Beneath the Waves an Ocean” – As funny as Andy Falkous’ takedown of Pitchfork’s negative review of The Plot Against common Sense was, it was also hard not to see it as a face-saving measure – the equivalent of flipping out on someone in prison so that you don’t continue to get fucked with. Future of the Left has never been a particularly strong album band – Travels With Myself and Another was somewhat more consistent than Curses, and The Plot Against Common Sense is something in between. It also, interestingly, continues Future of the Left’s habit of releasing not-the-best song as the first single: “Small Bones, Small Bodies” instead of “Suddenly a Folk Song”, “The House that Hope Built” instead of “Arming Eritrea”, and now “Polymers are Forever” instead of “Beneath the Waves an Ocean.” “Ocean” is another of FOTL’s bizarro-anthems: a song that sounds like it means everything in the world, albeit rather impenetrably.

Great Lake Swimmers “The Great Exhale” – “The Great Exhale” by the Great Lake Swimmers is just Great. It’s even Double-Great. It’s from a Great album, it’s a Great song, everything is just Great. Great Great Great.

Guided by Voices “Doughnut for a Snowman” – Actually, the best song on Let’s Go Eat the Factory was “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” but that was released as a single in 2011. Robert Pollard could teach Andy Falkous a thing or two about advance singles, man. Actually, I’d kind of like to sit in on that lesson.

Gunplay “God Damn (featuring Ace Hood and Torch)” – As aggressive as his nom de rhyme, Gunplay made a nigh-perfect mixtape8, topped off by a single with swearing in the title which, I’ve already stated, I’m a big fan of. Can’t get enough swearing in the title. Also, the chorus, which is all swearing.

Himanshu “Womyn” – This is, quite specifically, the version without Childish Gambino. I will sing the praises of Community until the skies falls down around my ears, but maaaaaan, fuck Childish Gambino. Anyway. “Womyn.” It’s a good song.

Hodgy Beats “Cookie Coma” – Between his own Untitled EP and Odd Future Vol. 29, it’s been a good year to be Hodgy, previously known as “the other guy from ‘Sandwitches,’ the guy that can’t stop laughing at everything.” Last year the Odd Future talk focused around Tyler, the Creator, who is always more willing to be a spectacle than a rapper, and therefore is a great ringleader. What’s interesting is that it turns out the people he’s surrounded himself by in his collective have blossomed (Mike G and Domo Genesis also had great moments this year) around him. Hodgy wins the spot because Hodgy got the best song, though.

Imperial Teen “Runaway” – Imperial Teen have long been a band that exist at the outermost fringe of stuff that I’m aware of. I mean, I know who they are and stuff, and I always seem to be made aware of when they’ve got a record out, but I don’t think I’ve actually sat and listened to one of their records all the way through at this point. Nevertheless, “Runaway” is a super-great bit of power pop, and if their other singles were this good, I’d have been paying attention for a lot longer.

The Internet “Ya Know” – The Internet might be the most interesting, on paper, part of Odd Future – making trip-hop, or something like it, some fifteen years after people stopped doing that, as well as avoiding pretty much any of the usual things associated with the crew they’re a part of, The Internet hasn’t really managed to pull everything together consistently. This, their contribution to the second Odd Future tape, is very much a step in the right direction. The tape itself is much better than vol. 1 (not saying much), and, as I said back at Hodgy, has some great moments from some of the more Junior members of the crew (and a thoroughly perplexing one from Frank Ocean. Oh, and the return of Earl Sweatshirt, but you already heard about that shit anyway).

Japandroids “The House That Heaven Built” – At their best, Japandroids don’t “write songs” – they write computer viruses for your brain, that get in there and rewire the workings and compel you to spontaneously feel that everything people have ever said about the transcendent power of rock music has been true, that two Canadians can, in fact, change the world on more-or-less a lark, and that just because something isn’t breaking new ground, or being creatively challenging doesn’t mean it can’t have all the weight of Moses’ own tablets. Also: whoa-oh-oh-oh-ohoh-oh-oh.

Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe” – One of the signs of pop music’s recovery from the doldrums of the last couple of years is that it’s been a year of repeated ubiquity by people who weren’t formerly-established: fun. – who have spent years getting flogged by the industry, only to finally have it pay off – by aping Queen, Gotye (whose song spent months climbing the chart on its video) by aping Sting10, and finally, my girl Carly Rae. “Call Me Maybe” may not actually be one of the best songs qua songs, but it’s rare that something is so instantly aflame, and then so instantly irritating. She’s a former Candian Idol contestant, she’s Bieber-endorsed, she’s adorable in the most obnoxious way possible, and people hate her. I don’t really understand why, but then I don’t ever understand people. Besides, she’s worked with The Roots more times than Gotye. Nyeah.

Killer Mike “R.A.P. Music” – Man. Killer Mike made an underrated record last year, and then this year got super-noticed and you know what? This shit is still underrated. R.A.P. Music is a phenomenal record, and the title track is one of the trickiest things to pull off: a self-aware anthem that isn’t particularly stupid. Basically this song and “The House that Heaven Built” are the only anthems anyone ever needs to write again, and we’re good.

Lambchop “2B2” – I have a real affinity for what I’m going to call “old people records.” There’s something about tracking the way that the product of the creative process changes over time. Lambchop has kind of always seemed like it was made of aging people, and he’s really grown into that idea. Also Lambchop always deserves points for being weird in a completely nonstandard way. I suppose, loosely, that Bill Callahan and Will Oldham are doing similar work, but Lambchop does it considerably more consistently, and is one of those rare beasts that almost has to be called its own genre. And yet, a song like “2B2” is as accessible and as pretty as anything else, despite being unmistakable and unique.

Lost in the Trees “This Dead Bird is Beautiful” – Lost in the Trees are a hard band to talk about. They make nice music with some impressive arrangements that’s all very structured and easy to listen to, pretty and pleasant and moving. The problem is that they’re not as boring as all that makes them sound, and also that their albums aren’t very good except for the good songs. So. Uh. This is a good song.

Machine Death “Three Inches Above the Floor” – An Australian noise duo who got my attention by being part of the excellent Wood & Wire records and releasing their album for free. The whole record is incredible, but “Three Inches Above the Floor” best represents what it is that they do. Actuallay, now that I think about it, noise music was another genre that had a good half-year.

Magnetic Fields “Andrew in Drag” – Magnetic Fields are already pretty much unclassifiable, which is nice. They’re also kind-of unreviewable. Stephin Merritt’s records are so deliberate, so meticulously planned and plotted and arranged that their certain to conform to his intentions, and it increasingly seems like whether or not they’re engaging or moving or entertaining is beside the point, which makes it really hard to decide how good they are. Anyway. This is a good song mainly because it’s funny.

The Men “Oscillation” – I think that The Men should tour with J.D. Samson’s MEN, just to make people even more confused. The Men put out a fine record early in the year, and showed some impressive stretching-out abilities that made me think maybe they should be doing more things like this. I mean, their punchier songs are fine, too. Just not as good.

Metro Zu “Wet” – “Wet” is a good song, with a particularly sick beat, but oh my god Metro Zu has the most irritating web presence I’ve ever encountered. It is all but literally impossible to gather any information on them, and the scope and amount of material they’ve released is bordering on the absurd, which I guess is fine, but it makes almost impossible to follow them. Shame. The mixtape this was from was really good. Good luck finding it!

MV & EE “Workingman’s Smile” – In Our Band Could Be Your Life, somebody (Gerard Cosloy, maybe, although also possibly Lou Barlow) says of J. Mascis (and I’m paraphrasing here) that the thing that made his work so impressive was his ability to create a synthesis of all the different and disparate kinds of music that he listened to in such a way as to make it all one thing. I remember thinking that was a really admirable quality, and also that it doesn’t apply to J. Mascis even one little bit, because seriously homeskittle sounds like Neil Young who used to play in a punk band. Anyway. I think it is true of Erika Elder, and especially Matt Valentine, and especially especially when they play together as MV & EE. Sometimes this is more compelling than others, and on Space Homestead it works particularly well.

Nas “The Don” – I’m sure the album this comes from is going to not be very good, but in keeping with post-brainworms Nas tradition, this single is phenomenal. “Daughters” was also in the running, but “The Don” wins mostly because I like it when someone makes a beat out of someone saying words. Which is a weird thing to like but hey, I DON’T NEED YOUR APPROVAL GET OFF MY BACK.

Neptune “Negative Reversal” – Neptune have made a billion records over the course of the last couple of decades, and I first heard them at the beginning of the year, and spent months catching up on their back catalog, which then conveniently landed me on this, their 2012 release. As inventive as anyone currently making noise music, they manage to avoid pretty much all of the traps that make noise bands samey and uninteresting – notably that this doesn’t sound improvised or temporary, but as designed and built as the instruments they construct themselves. A phenomenal record by a phenomenal band.

Oddissee “Ain’t That Peculiar” – Odd Renditions is perhaps the most accurately-named record in the world – it’s a series of remixes that the veteran rapper added vocals to, from all sorts of odd sources. It’s part of a flurry of EPs that Oddissee has released, in a vein that’s almost-entirely separate from the album coming out later this summer. It’s a great time to be a hip-hop fan, is what I’m saying. Some really interesting people are doing really interesting things with their careers.

The Pack A.D. “Body Parts” – The Pack A.D. sound a lot like The Black Keys, which is fine. The Black Keys did used to be a good band, after all. This song itself adds nothing particularly new or interesting, but does accomplish its nothing pretty well. It’s like an episode of Modern Family – it’s vaguely throwbacky, and probably kind of on-the-nose, but hard not to like anyway.

Kitty Pryde “Okay, Cupid” – If nothing else, Ms. Pryde gets credit for being the first rapper of any prominence to claim Odd Future as an influence11, and also putting another feather in the cap of “there’s no such thing as authenticity,” which, y’know, is a cap I wear proudly. The best thing about it, really, is that it’s kind-of impossible to tell if it’s “good” by any measure other than whether or not you like it – I can’t tell if she can rap, I can’t tell if she even cares. And that’s great. Especially given that if you’d told me “nineteen year old from Daytona, Florida” I would have run away screaming so hard that I ran into the sliding door and fell over dead like a confused seagull. There’s also probably something interesting about the coincident timing of “Okay, Cupid” and “Call Me Maybe,” each of which is a song that does things with the “pining for a boy” genre that’s mildly interesting, but this is already at 4,000 words and, frankly, you’re all sick of reading it by now, so I’ll save it for another time.

The Punch Brothers “Movement and Location” – By now you’ve probably heard the story of Chris Thile, and if you haven’t, there’s google. He got a documentary and everything. Anyway, the story of the forming of the band is a little bit interesting, but actually doesn’t let on how good they are. Innovations in bluegrass are few on the ground due to the nature of the genre, but coming along and taking the instrumentation and arrangement style and applying it to a modernist take on songs themselves (and even covering “Kid A” on record) is a helpful shift.  This was probably my favorite record this year, with other contenders being “Patchwork Girlfriend” and “Clara.”

Santigold “Disparate Youth” – The internet has created a world whereby going a minute without a new record, or a new single, or somehow thrusting yourself into the public eye has a way of making you seem like a leftover from another era. And the gap from 2008 to 2012 almost does feel like a bridge over two different eras, although I couldn’t tell you why. Anyway, all of that is to say, I wondered a lot about how Santigold, whose first record was so out-there, so inventive that an entire fleet of other people swung in to basically ape what she was doing, would follow that up. Turns out she’d follow it up by continuing to do exactly what she does, and the world is a better place for it.

Todd Snider “New York Banker” – I don’t know if I have anything new to say about Todd Snider, really, I just really like this song. He’s got about six thousand albums, and this is a pretty good one, but if you haven’t heard East Nashville Skyline, it’s better. If you have, then you probably already have this.

Spiritualized “So Long You Pretty Thing” – Jason Pierce has a very, very particular skill: the long build-up to a chorus. “So Long You Pretty Thing” might even be the best example of that – he pushes his way through several verses and then gives you a bona-fide payoff at the end. There’s not a lot to say about this one either. Sometimes a song is just really, really good.

Stalley (featuring Curren$y) “Hammers & Vogues” – The finest rapper ever to hail from Massillon, Ohio and featuring a beard that makes lesser humans weep, Stalley is probably the most interesting member of Maybach Music12. He and Curren$y are actually a surprisingly good match here, and I hope they do more together.

THEESatisfaction “Enchantruss” – THEESatisfaction have been around for awhile, but I only just heard them on last year’s Shabazz Palaces record. Actually, judging by the fact that that gets mentioned in reviews a lot, I’m probably not the only one. Anyway, it’s nice to have them around, and “Enchantruss” is a slice of super-weird hip-hop crossed with super-weird R&B. They’re also a rare entirely-self-contained (they are responsible for their own vocals and their own production) hip-hop entity, which probably helps keep their offbeatness on point.

Twilight Sad “Dead City” – We do a lot of things to cope with our grief. The world no longer has an Arab Strap, or a viable electro scene, so we have to make due. Twilight Sad may be a real doll for the missing girlfriend of actual good music, but at least they’re a real doll, and not some weird blow up thing. Besides, asshole, you might actually like it.

White Hills “Robot Stomp” – I’m almost always underwhelmed by White Hills’ records, and I can’t in good faith recommend Frying on this Rock to you people. It’s alright, I suppose, but “Robot Stomp” is fucking awesome. It sounds like robots! And those robots are stomping! And it goes on for long enough for you to have yourself your own impressive stomp! Like a robot! A stomping robot! DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH! YEAH!

Jack White “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” – Jack White broke up at least one of his bands and went and made his own record under his own name, with actual professional musicians, and the result was….well, it was exactly what you’d expect. It’s pretty good, and completely free of surprises. Which, really, is probably why you go to a Jack White record in the first place.

Xiu Xiu “Hi” – The greatest band formed thus far in the 21st century, I will pretty much never find myself with anything bad to say about Xiu Xiu. Toward the end of last year, they released what might have been their best single (“Sashay Away”), and the follow-up early in 2012….sounded nothing like it. “Hi,” the leadoff track and leadoff single from the album, is the first time you can properly apply the adjective “catchy” to the band’s work (although parts of Dear God I Hate Myself were close to it). It also manages to serve as an introduction to the band itself. Presumably you haven’t listened to all of these songs yet, and presumably you will skip around, but do yourself a favor: make sure to hear this one. If it catches, there are few bands in the world more rewarding to be a fan of, and if it doesn’t, well, it’s fun to replace the words with stuff anyway13.

And that does it, folks! The fifty songs from the kind-of-a-dud first half of the year! Enjoy them responsibly, and shout along to the good parts.


1 here, specifically
2 well, since the portion of the conversation about her first album that existed pre-”Criminal”
3 although that’s not to disregard his contributions to Ab-Soul and El-P’s records, both of which are fantastic.
4 Meaning “of the genre,” not “blandly or featurelessly”
5 You can’t prove they’re not robots.
6 albeit surprising for different reasons: I haven’t been impressed by a Jay Farrar vocal in years, I didn’t think much of Will Johnson in terms of folk music, Death Songs for the Living was not very good, and fuck Yim Yames.
7 so they could come out cleeeeeeeee-eeee-eeean
8 primarily because, and this is rare in 2012, it’s not too long. Way to edit yourself, Mr. Play.
9 probably not the real title
10 I actually like Gotye, that sentence was just to annoy dimoko.
11 I suppose I should point out that, as much of a skeptic I was about Odd Future having much of a continued presence after their arrival last year, this is about the nine billionth time I’ve mentioned them, so, uh. I guess they’ve got 2012, too.
12 but we’ll keep praying for Omarion anyway.
13 “if you’re a cat say hi/if you’re trying to chew on my pants say hi/if you’re currently pooping in a boooooox say hi”

Things That Don’t Suck 6-17 to 6-23

1. The ridiculous turning into the fucking cartoonish
I’m still never reading The Oatmeal again, and I’m hopeful that this will be the last time I ever mention it, but it’s worth catching up a little on the aftermath of the legal following: the lawyer that funnyjunk hired is now representing himself, and basically suing the entire internet because of reasons. And he just keeps going. It’s like watching a little kid completely lose his shit in the doctor’s office because of an untied shoe: you know the reasons aren’t worth this, but you wouldn’t give up the sight for a second.

2. Being agreed with by the paper of record
Well. Kind of. I mean, they were more charitable and used much more food-critic-type words. But the point remains: the grey lady thinks the same thing about the Doritos Locos Tacos the same way I do, with one glaring, slanderous exception. You can’t not enjoy sour cream. It’s basically dairy’s finest moment, and I say this knowing full well that some of you lunatics are going to argue that cheese is better. You know what? Cheese is not better. It’s good, certainly. I’m not going to turn down cheese. I’m pro-cheese in all forms, from the lowliest slice to the most elevated aged, runny wheel. But sour cream is better, and that’s a fact because I believe it. To say that the sour cream on the Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme is somehow a detraction from the food item in question is like saying that you love your new car, but hate the air conditioning. No, the car doesn’t need the air conditioning to be a functional vehicle, but why the hell would you leave it off?

3. Jonathan Coulton
I mean, he’s generally awesome, and I don’t know that I’ve encountered any circumstances under which he wasn’t, but in this case he’s also elegantly correct. You see, David Lowery decided that kids suck because he isn’t rich (again), and that only people with a large amount of disposable income deserve to like things1, and I nearly wrote a post (actually I did write a post) as a rebuttal, but I’ve already done that once, and this is ohio needs a train, not ohio needs to be angry at David Lowery. Jonathan Coulton’s response is measured, and reasonable, and absolutely dead-on, so he gets my approbation. I bet he likes sour cream more than not sour cream, also.

4. The practice of surrendering birthdays
I had never considered Robert Louis Stevenson, the guy. I mean, I think I’ve read Treasure Island2 and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, but I had never considered that he was, like, a dude who got letters and had a birthday and stuff. So anyway, a little girl is upset because she has to share her birthday with Jesus, so RLS gives her his, which is in November, so she totally gets all of her presents and a cake and stuff. Which means she got to change her shit around and also send the subtle message to Christ the Savior that hey, you know what? Your birthday is crap and I’m more interested in getting my own myrrh.

5. This drum solo
Guys? He’s blind. He can’t see. He can’t see the drums he’s playing. Or anything else, for that matter. That is fucking coconuts.

1 also that file-sharers are murderers. Really, he was on a tear.
2 what I mean is: I know the plot and where the movies deviate from it as presented in any given film, but I have no specific memory of sitting down with a copy and actually looking at the words. It’s weird.

Things That Didn’t Suck 6-10 to 6-15

1. NME’s apology to Morrissey
Ah, Morrissey. Heaven knows he’s miserable now. After all, who doesn’t get called for an interview and said things like “the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears”? Everyone fears their national identity will be flooded by immigrants! That doesn’t make him racist, that just means that he, y’know, has feelings. The NME, he says, twisted his words. Clearly he meant the British identity will disappear as a result of an immigrant influx in the least-inflammatory way. That’s not a reason to paint the dude as a guy that would say things like that! Tellingly, the NME’s apology is not really an apology (which is par for the course for a publication), and also he’s suing for defamation, and not actually falsifying the interview. He’s suing because printing the article made him look bad. Here’s an idea, Steve-O: don’t say dumb, racist shit, and you won’t look like a dumb racist! Still, this is about the NME, who are so concerned with their relationship with the source of so much of their butter that they still want him to know that they feel bad about all the pain they’ve cause, and they hope it won’t lead to panic in the streets of London, Birmingham, Carlisle, Dublin, Dundee or Humberside. But who am I? I should shut my mouth. How can I say he goes about the things the wrong way? He is human, and he needs to be loved. Just like everybody else does.

2. This extremely dedicated Civilization II player
For ten years, this dude has played a Celtic civilization, well past the point that the game was probably ever expected to handle, and yet handle it it does. The world is a constant war-torn struggle over the miniscule amount of resources left on the planet. Even more incredibly, the people of Reddit have suggestions for how to turn over this stalemate and remake the world into one where lives can be lived. As a metaphor for the human spirit, it’s pretty neat and all that. But mostly it’s hard not to be impressed that the people that programmed Civilization II did such a good job that you can play a single game for ten years.

3. The business acumen of F/X
Charlie Sheen (with whom I share a birthday1) is not what you’d call a reliable employee – in fact, he admits as much in the post in the link, saying “they knew what they were getting” as well as basically admitting that his drug use would continue. Provided Anger Management is not a flop for its first ten episodes, his contract kicks in to film another ninety. That is probably the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. This way, if he can hold out through however long it takes to make ninety episodes of this tv show (that’s ten F/X seasons!), they never have to worry about his reliability ever again. They’ll have ten years of his work, to capitalize on the work he kept it together to do, especially if he goes off the deep end again. Or dies. They’ll be in plum position if he dies.

4. Matt Motherfucking Cain and the San Francisco Giants
Baseball is, in the opinon of 50% of Ohio Need a Train, the sport that all other sports strive to be. It’s a contest unlike literally any other athletic competition on the planet. Following baseball is more deeply rewarding and enriching than any other sport by several orders of magnitude, and one of its finest moments is the perfect game2. And the Giants’ performance on Wednesday was, even among perfect games (there have only been 22 in MLB history), an amazing achievement. Featuring two fielding miracles (an outfield catch that really should never have been caught and a bit of divine-intervention-fielding by the shortstop for the last out), 14 strike outs, and 10 goddamned runs on offense, the Giants played a game of baseball better than basically any other team all season.

5. A fistfight between Drake and Chris Brown’s entourages
Because seriously. A professional dancer/shithead and the wheelchair dude from Degrassi walk into a bar, the bartender says “what’ll you have” and the groups of people with them say “PUNCHES FOR THOSE DUDES.” The fight, we are assured, was not over Rihanna, despite that literally being the only thing linking the two people. And as nice as it is to see Chris Brown with an open wound on his stupid face, I was a little sad to see the fight attributed to their respective “entourages.” Aubrey, you wear a fucking sweater. And the bonus upside is that if we can get one more decided nontraditionally-masculine pop singer to take a swing at somebody, we’ll officially have a trend. I’ll see what if any of the One Direction guys are particularly angry. Maybe we can even goad them into beating up fun. or something.

1 and also Redfoo, the old guy from LMFAO*
* I mean I also share a birthday with him, not that Charlie and I share the old guy from LMFAO. That would be weird.
2 although ask me about the triple sometime, humble as it may seem.

Things That Do Suck: theoatmeal.com

So Matthew Inman has gained internet praise by responding to a lawyer who is threatening to sue him for, in his words, “hosting [his] unlicensed comics on [their] shitty website for the past three years.”

Now, I’m not even going to get into the well-worn issues that this raises about Matthew Inman’s attitude toward his own copyright, but it’s safe to say that it puts him in the league that could, reasonably, be called a “maximalist,” which is whatever it is. Again, I’m not going to heap onto that, mainly because, despite having vague memories otherwise, I can’t find any specific evidence that he’s ever claimed to be anything else.

I’m also not going to deny that it’s not good that his work is stripped of its signature and posted under someone else’s mark. That sucks. Really, it does.

No, my problem is a represented by the following parable:

I was driving down the road yesterday, and a really great song came on the radio. And then, after it stopped, there was another really great song! And then, after a commercial break, they played a third really great song! By then I was home, so I turned off my radio and said to myself “boy oh boy that radio station sure makes great music.”

Now, leaving aside the fact that, ostensibly, the means of distribution (the record label) is renumerated for radio play, the artist generally is not, which makes this a fairly-sturdy parable. Sites like funnyjunk.com operate on a user-submission basis. Which means that they build a community, and that community sees things that they like and then brings them back to the other members of the community. You know, just like any other group of people. That’s how things on the internet work.

And so some of Inman’s fans – please understand, these people that he’s calling all these vile, foul names? They’re people whose big, terrible crime is wanting to share his work – want to make other people into his fans, and maybe they’re not as scrupulous as they ought to be (see the third paragraph), but the point is, it’s not the kind of exposure that Inman wants, so he’s villifying an entire community worth of people.

And it is the entire community. In his initial blog post of a year ago, he even went so far as to say that “their only attempt at original humor” is the copyright on their website. Which means that, because almost a thousand of his comics are there, he is willing to disregard the percentage of original content, however small, that does exist, thereby discouraging the members of this community not only from sharing his work, but also from making their own.

Furthermore, in the initial post, the one that led to him getting sued, he repeatedly went after the site-owners for the behavior of an entire community. Now, obviously that’s a sticky wicket, and in fact, a good deal more philosophical, as an argument, than I’m willing to make here. Suffice it to say, what’s important to the point I am making is that, given the way he phrased it and the way the law works, there is actually a reason to believe that defamation is involved. After all, he’s accusing the site’s owners of active malice when they’re pretty much just guilty of apathy (albeit kind of a dickish apathy1).

But then there’s bears and cancer. Bears and cancer are two absolutely bulletproof things to throw money at, and I suppose kudos are due to Mr. Inman for deciding to channel his rage into this venue. He’s raised an impressive amount of money for some good causes, and that’s absolutely nothing to scoff at. The problem is: he’s now officially had the chutzpah to conflate his shitty, anti-community, anti-use rant with the problems of wildlife scarcity and cancer, which is at best irresponsible and disingenuous.

Shame on you, Matthew Inman. For insisting that you be the final arbiter on how people see your work with no exceptions, for shitting on the work of however many others because of your assumptions, and for tangling your own egotistical nonsense up with things people might actually want to support.

I will never intentionally view your website again, and I encourage others to do the same. It sounds like I’ll have a pretty easy time keeping up with your work on funnyjunk.com.

1 alright, I’m footnoting here to say that I don’t really see a need for funnyjunk.com to exist specifically. Additionally, I’ve never used it, I’m not a member of the community, and I’m aware that it’s probably as full of jerks as any other community of people ever, because that’s what happens.

Things that didn’t suck 6-3 to 6-9

1. Neutral Bling Hotel
Technically speaking, this may have come out last week, but I found it on Sunday. As an album, it’s fine, and enjoyable, but this makes the list (at #1, no less) for the absolutely brilliant “Communist Mic.” Once you hear it, you will agree that the natural setting for Nas’ finest single was not Phil Collins’ airless drumming, but the trumpet part from “Communist Daughter.” Duh.

2. Asking the president to forgive your DUI
I mean, it’s one thing to insist loudly that you don’t drink to the people that are actually involved with your actual case, and another thing entirely to take to twitter and request that the president of the United States take action on what you claim is a spurious charge of drunkenly slamming into another motorist and then driving off. Not that I don’t think that “I don’t do that” is an excellent legal defense – I do, really, I think it’s great – but I can’t help but admire the preparedness that leads to your Plan B being “Oh I’ll just let Barry cover it.”

3. This little Scottish girl who blogs her school lunch every day
She counts how many bites she takes! I linked this one because it has the world’s cutest sushi, but also because another little German girl has written about her lunch, and has also counted mouthfuls and pieces of hair – and also it’s dumplings (sans poppy) and some cucumber slices. Basically, if you’re twelve years old, I want you to write about your lunch1. Anyway, she has both a kid’s approach to eating – comfort-based, with new things regarded suspiciously, and a Scot’s approach to eating – which, as you can probably surmise, is vaguely gross2. Anyway, I’m kind of the last person to discover it (it went big pretty fast), so I’m also left with the thought that kids are actually great people to document and have opinions on things like this – she’s not necessarily focusing on the parts that people respond to, she’s still writing it like she started writing it (compare to the similar Fed Up With Lunch blog, which changed drastically after she went public). Anyway. Those sushi, man.

4. Ken Marino’s Excellent Burning Love
Guys. It’s a web series by Ken Marino that’s also a parody of The Bachelor and its many associated pursuits. It’s super-funny, the episodes are super-short, you can watch them at work, and you probably should or I’ll be very sad forever. It also does the trick of reuniting him with both Michael Ian Black and Adam Scott, so far, in addition to a bunch of other people he’s worked with (it’s always hard to get particularly excited about Malin Akerman, knamean?) Also, it’s written by his wife, which is kind of adorable. Go watch it.

5. SIDEBOOB
This has been a week where I’ve been a little bit late about everything, and so is it the case that I’m also late on the Sideboob issue. I just want to say: The Huffington Post has been utterly ridiculous for the entire time it’s existed, whether you are in agreement with its agregate statements or not. It’s always been a view-bating, click-whoring blah blah blah, the point is: it’s the weirdest thing in the world to devote part of your website to. I suppose “topboob”3 is already such a run-of-the-mill occurrence that it doesn’t need its own section of the website and “frontboob”4 is unavailable because goddammit, HuffPo is classy. Also: Sideboob on Huffington Post is inappropriate profiling. Please laugh at that joke I’m very happy about it.

1 and only your lunch. ever. Please don’t have me arrested.
2 “the pineapple was placed on top of the gammon so it was nice and warm.” Seriously. I’m off pork and fruit both from that sentence.
3 or “cleavage”
4 or “toplessness”

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury died.

That’s an enormous thing. He was born in 1920, in time (and I’m paraphrasing here) to write about television, radio and the automobile. And he did write about them. And then he wrote about everything else. Ray Bradbury was a big, important writer, with lots of acclaim and high sales figures and a reputation the size of just about any writer’s alive. As such, he is well-celebrated and eulogized, by people who do a lot more than run half of a blog out of Ohio.

But he wrote for me just the same as he wrote for you, and for everyone. He was proud of having often skipped school to spend entire days reading books in a library, he was insistent that college was unnecessary, because everything you could ever want to know about the world was already printed in books, and all you had to do was read them. Tellingly, the only book he ever wrote that he would allow to be called science fiction (meaning the only book he ever wrote that he felt had a reasonable, scientific way to come to pass) was the dystopia in which people set books on fire. Books meant as much to Ray Bradbury as anything, and it’s no wonder that his books meant so much to so many people.

That he was so insistently audodidactic meant that his books were entirely non-exclusionary – his prose was effective and literary, florid and lush and beautiful, but always in the functional service of his moving stories. His stories were terrifying – theme parks that wanted to kill you, a simulation of the African prairie that goes wrong – or heartbreaking – a little girl that doesn’t get to see the sun, a little boy happy that his father finally doesn’t return – but his words, and his tone, meant that no matter what terrible thing happened to his characters, there was a reason. His stories had a bottomless emotional depth, and a skill at the examination of emotional states that was as finely honed as a scalpel.

Often the stories themselves seemed to serve as a temper for his boundless enthusiasm about progress and forward motion: people would colonize other planets, but it wouldn’t always work. Technology would grow marvelous, but we had to watch to ensure that the culture we had worked so hard for didn’t end up abandoned in favor of gadgetry.

And all of that is admirable, but the thing that lasted for me – because as Ray taught us, it’s the individual that matters, the small story that lends the big story meaning – was that Ray Bradbury went out into the world, with all of his talent and all of his ability, and did exactly what he wanted. He wrote fantasy that appealed to science fiction fans, at a time when neither genre had what you would call an overabundance of respectability (and, in fact, before much of what the fantasy genre would explode into was codified, defiantly calling himself a fantasist the whole time). He made a world for himself to live in, and then he made worlds for all the rest of us to live in.

Thank you, Ray. 
There was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves.  

The Martian Chronicles

Things that didn’t suck 5-28 to 6-2

1. Burning meat to remember people that are dead.
Seriously. Is this a bit of wordplay in extremely poor taste on the part of the people that make up such things? It doesn’t matter. I support it. I don’t have to to leave my chair except for to make meat hot, and nobody looks at me weird for being drunk by 9:30 a.m. Because of the servicemen. We have a real knack, in this country, for celebrating holidays of which we miss the point entirely, which pretty much always thrills me, but Memorial Day, a national holiday with literally no connection to any cultural tradition other than ours, being celebrated in such a colossally point-missing way, is twice the thrill of, say, Easter. You heard it here first folks, Memorial Day is better than Easter. Mainly because I don’t have to explain to any old people on Memorial Day why I don’t like to put on pants.

2. Justin Bieber’s battery charge
People1 hate – hate – Justin Bieber. That’s silly. He’s really not worth that kind of effort. Also, it’s 2012. The music industry as it exists has existed for by far the better part of a century, and during that time, there have been really annoying, easily-manipulated, photogenic people who made music that wasn’t designed to mean anything to anyone. In fact, this is so widespread that even pointing out that there’s always been shitty pop music is just as overworn as complaining about shitty pop music. And that’s all well and good, but because Justin Bieber is like twelve2, it’s apparently appropriate to go after his masculinity more-or-less constantly. Because normal, well-adjusted adult males question the traditional masculinity of adolescent boys all the time. That’s totally something grownups do. Anyway. Those people suck, and Justin Bieber has now officially kicked the ass of more people than most of the people who whine about his “lack” of their idea of masculinity. I hope he continues to beat the shit out of people for no other reason than to spite morons who still complain about pop singers in 2012.

3. Andy Falkous’ Response to Pitchfork
Ordinarily, I think shitty, petulant responses to bad reviews are stupid (I’m not, for example, going to link to The Oatmeal’s weird Tesla-blowing snit), but occasionally there’s a deeper point under there. In this case, it makes perfect sense – Andy Falkous has made a career out of being funny with an underlying point. In this case, the fact that the Pitchfork reviewer was obviously using an advance copy of a new record by a good band to talk about how much he appreciated that band’s older, cooler “parent” band. Also, I swear to you right now, if you work “there’s a penguin on it, you stupid cunt”3 sensibly into your blog, I’ll read it forever.

4. Snow White and the Huntsman’s lukewarm reception
Much like we’ve all gone to see Battleship three or four times each4, I can only be happy when one of the fifty thousand properties developed based on fairy tales doesn’t do particularly well. I have nothing against fairy tales, and I’m a semi-regular viewer of Grimm (and they’re better than board games), but it’s endemic of the sort of saturation point of the “all films must be developed from existing properties mindset,” and I like to think it points to the beginning of the end. Also, Charlize Theron totally ate chicken for that movie, and I think that should be much more of a reward than people actually liking it.

5. People making funny pictures from that one Gotye song
I mean, I could probably live with not hearing the song ever again5 but every time I see a picture that has lyrics in it, I laugh. I think that we can officially add “Somebody That I Used to Know” lyrics to the list of things that will make me laugh no matter what the context6. Also, for whatever reason the last week of May is a week in which it was hard to find things that didn’t suck. So I suppose next week we all need to take it upon ourselves to do a better damn job of not sucking.

1 this time I’m not a person.
2 or something
3 with special bonus points for “allow me to efuckidate in an easy-to-understand fuck-by-point manner”
4 you guys have been doing that, right?
5 seriously. it’s a good song and stuff, guys, but you’ve all heard it seventy thousand times and you don’t have to listen to it anymore.
6 a list that presently includes: penguins singing, fake microphones, people pretending to shout but not actually making any noise, and people miming opening tiny doors.